March 25, 2020 SPECIAL COVID-19 ISSUE

AUSTRALIA - Report

By: Dr. Paul Harpur, TC Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland, Australia

Working from home has becoming the new norm in Australia, and how to manage this has attracted considerable media attention. There is a general lock down on non-essential services. However, K-12 schools remain open with unions threatening to strike on OSH grounds.

The Australian Federal Government has unveiled a “supercharged” safety net that will double payments to the unemployed and those who lose their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes Federal Government income support for individuals.

The measures include:

  • expanding eligibility for income support payments and providing a new “coronavirus supplement”;
  • permitting individuals in “financial stress” due to the coronavirus to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 (though this measure does not provide any support to 1.4 million visa workers who currently had no access to any social safety net or to gig workers or to casuals); and
  • the Federal Government will also provide cash flow to businesses. Such payments to businesses are specifically linked to to staff wage tax withholdings. This incentivizes businesses to hold on to more of their workers.

Dr. Paul Harpur

TC Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland, Australia